Winchester City 7 - 2 Bridgwater Town
Winchester City 7 Bridgwater Town 2
The late admission of Winchester City to the Southern League meant that the Club and the manager, Paul Masters, and Director of Football, Dave Malone, in particular, had to switch their team building from one trying to win the Wessex League to one to be competitive at a higher level.
Right until kick off on the first day of the season, no-one knew if they had succeeded in their quest. The squad was hit by the absence of four players, two on holiday and two suspended and the first team fielded in the Southern League at home to Bridgwater Town on Saturday 8th August contained six summer signings. In addition, the Manager was also on holiday! Ten minutes into the game all doubts were cast aside.
Within four minutes City had opened their account. Geoff Dunn worked his way down the right wing and crossed into the box. Warren Bentley had difficulty controlling the ball but somehow managed to get his left foot to it and surprised the Bridgwater 'keeper, Jake Viney, who saw the ball flash by him at the near post.
It was Bentley again in the 10th minute who capitalised on hesitancy in the penalty box. Bridgwater called for offside when Zack Glasspool broke through. Viney realised too late that the appeal was not to be and he advanced on Glasspool and managed to deflect the shot but only to Bentley who tucked it away from about 20 yards into the empty net.
City continued to dominate and should have gone three up on the half hour when Adam Tomasso also exploited the space down the right flank and crossed for Dan Cann to head on to the underside of the crossbar.
Despite the pressure on them, Bridgwater never gave up and in a brief spell caused City some anxiety. City's left back Jake Newton was pulled up for a foul on Ross McNab. Connor Sullivan's free kick was just bundled away at the far post.
Bentley completed his hat-trick in the 27th minute when Bridgwater failed to clear the ball from their box and Cann crossed from the left for Bentley to power home.
The Visitors' day turned from bad to worse in the 31st minute when Cann again chipped over from the left and Bentley had the relatively easy chance to tap in from close range for City's fourth goal.
With City easing off a little Bridgwater came back at them. McNab forced 'keeper Sam Somerville into a good diving save and then put another shot just wide.
Astonishingly it was City who increased their lead in the 42nd minute. Newton burst through on the left from deep in his own half but was fouled in the box. The Referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Bentley had no hesitation in converting the spot kick.
Right on the half time whistle Bridgwater gave themselves a lifeline when City failed to get adequate cover back for a corner and Joe Bushin shot home from deep inside the box.
The second half started like the first with City on the attack. George Short split the Bridgwater defence with an accurate ball for Bentley and he ran on a 'drew' Viney off his line before rolling the ball unselfishly to Glasspool to allow him to open his account for the season.
With Rob Flooks carrying an injury Assistant Manager Paul Wiltshire brought on Luke Benali for his debut in the 57th minute. It took a little while for City to settle after the change and Bridgwater took advantage. Unfortunately Jaimie Thoroughgood diverted the ball into his own net whilst under pressure from Riko Best.
The Visitors could have closed the gap further when ...Bushin had a good chance but put his shot wide.
City came back however, Jamie Barron was involved in some good interplay with Dunn and Glasspool which resulted in a shot from Cann being blocked by the 'keeper's legs. In the next attack Benali sent Dunn away down the right and his cross just evaded Bentley who had an open goal awaiting.
In the 65th minute Liam came on for Jaimie Barron and in the 79th minute Glasspool was given a rest to be replaced by young Harrison Fay making his senior debut.
Winchester were not to be denied, however, and in the 87th minute Benali collected a pass from Short ran on and crossed for Harrison Fay to angle home his first senior goal.
City: Sam Somerville, Adam Tomasso, Jake Newton, George Short, Jaimie Thoroughgood, Rob Flooks, Jaimie Barron, Geoff Dunn, Zach Glasspool, Warren Bentley, Dan Cann, Liam Gilbert, Luke Benalli, Harrison Fay, Brendon Norris and Rian Jirma-Otero.